BINGHAM— When music teacher Krista Wiles started the school year, there were not enough instruments for all the students in her middle school music class to play.
“A lot of the kids I have in band have been playing instruments that we’ve had for years, and some of them are not in the best working condition; but if they want to play an instrument, I’m not going to tell them no,” Wiles said. “I find the best one of the bad ones, and that’s basically what I’ve been doing.”
Wiles spoke Tuesday afternoon during a school assembly at Quimby Middle School in which parents, students and teachers gathered to receive a $10,000 donation from the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.
The donation — which came in the form of five clarinets, four trumpets, four trombones, four saxophones, five flutes and a guitar — is part of an effort to give back to school communities that visit the museum, which is run by the Galen Cole Family Foundation. The museum bought the 19 instruments from Northern Kingdom Music in Bangor.
“One of the pillars of the foundation is to support children, and every year we sit down and ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference in the lives of children,” said Jim Neville, the museum’s operations director.
The museum previously had focused on giving schools more traditional academic resources, but this year it decided that extracurricular and arts programs also could use assistance in light of school budget cuts.
The district, which consists of Bingham and Moscow and has a total student population of 201 in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, reinstated Wiles as a full-time music teacher last year after temporarily eliminating its high school music program because of budget cuts.
“Extracurriculars are really taking a hit,” Neville said. “It’s a lot different today than when I was in school. Back then you didn’t have to pay $250 to play basketball.”
Four other schools across the state also received $10,000 worth of instruments from the museum: Waterville Senior High School; Katahdin Middle and High School, in Stacyville; Medomak High School, in Waldoboro; and Searsport District High School.
Devon Hemond, a sixth-grader who recently moved to Bingham from Beddington, said he had played trombone for two years before he moved, only to find out that there was no trombone for him to play at his new school.
“I have two trombones, but I already have two boys on trombone, so I said, â€˜I’ll figure something out,’ and that’s when this happened,” Wiles said. “I was able to tell him, â€˜Now I have a trombone coming.’”
Hemond, who had his eye on the new electric guitar, said he had changed his mind about which instrument he wanted to play.
“I was a little sad there was no trombone at first, but now I’m thinking about guitar. It looks really nice,” he said.
Both students and parents gathered around the collection of shiny new instruments Tuesday at Quimby Middle School, their faces glowing as they thought about which ones they wanted to learn.
District Principal Juliana Richard said Tuesday that music is an important part of the school community and that the district was excited about the new gift. “We jumped at this opportunity, knowing it could improve our schools’ musical program. We’re just so very pleased,” she said.
Natalie Lagasse, of Moscow, is a parent whose son is in the sixth grade and his first year of studying saxophone.
“I think all kids deserve to play an instrument,” Lagasse said. “This is just great. It’s the best things to ever happen at the school.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org